Meeting Commitments - Are Countries on Track to Achieve SDG 4?

Originally published


World is off track to get every child into school by 2030

First projections show the world is off track in its education commitments for 2030

Countries should match their education plans with their global commitments to get back on track.

A third of the way to the 2030 deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals, new UNESCO projections prepared for the UN High-level Political Forum show that the world will fail its education commitments without a rapid acceleration of progress. In 2030, when all children should be in school, one in six aged 6-17 will still be excluded. Many children are still dropping out: by 2030, it is expected 40% will still not be completing secondary education rising to 50% in sub-Saharan Africa.

The new global education goal, SDG 4, calls on countries to ensure that children are not only going to school but also learning, yet the proportion of trained teachers in sub-Saharan Africa has been falling since 2000.

At current trends, by 2030, learning rates are expected to stagnate in middle-income countries and Latin America, and drop by almost a third in Francophone African countries. Without rapid acceleration, globally, 20% of young people and 30% of adults will still be unable to read by the deadline.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasizes leaving no-one behind yetonly 4% of the poorest 20% complete upper secondary school in the poorest countries, compared to 36% of the richest. The gap is even wider in lower-middle-income countries.

The Global Education Monitoring Report calculated in 2015 that there was a $39 billion annual finance gap to achieve the global education goal and yet aid to education has stagnated since 2010.

“The onus shouldn’t all be on donors to fix the problem,” said the Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Silvia Montoya. “Countries need to face up to their commitments too. Currently less than half of countries are providing the data we need to monitor progress towards the global education goal. What’s the point in setting targets if we can’t track them? Better finance and coordination are needed to fix this data gap before we get any closer to the deadline.”

A complementary publication by the Global Education Monitoring Report analyses policies that countries say they have put in place to implement the education goal since 2015. It recommends that countries align their education plans with SDG4 so that they can get back on track.

Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report: “Countries have interpreted the meaning of the targets in the global education goal very differently. This seems correct given that countries set off from such different starting points. But they must not deviate too much from the promises they made back in 2015. If countries match their plans with their commitments now, they can get back on track by 2030.”

The Report shows that many countries have prioritized equity and inclusion since 2015 to meet the goal, with school vouchers issued to indigenous students in Bolivia, tuition fees abolished for the poorest in Vietnam and conditional cash transfers given to refugee children in Turkey, and to children with severe intellectual disabilities in South Africa.

Learning has been prioritized too, with a third of countries introducing learning assessments to look at trends over time, and one in four countries using learning results to reform their curricula.

The weakest synergies between countries’ plans and their education commitments are seen in the lack of cross-sectoral collaboration found only in links between education and the labour market, as in Honduras and Palestine, and to a lesser extent in early childhood care, as in Colombia and Lebanon.

The Report recommends countries work using the following six key areas to make sure their plans align with their education commitments:

  1. Beyond averages to equity and inclusion;
  2. Beyond access to quality and learning;
  3. Beyond basics to content fit for sustainable development;
  4. Beyond schooling to lifelong learning;
  5. Beyond education to cross-sectoral collaboration; and,
  6. Beyond countries to regional and global collaboration.
  • ENDS –

For more information, or for interviews with spokespeople, including the Rt Hon Helen Clark and the Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, please contact Kate Redman on 0033671786234 or